Here’s some news that put a hitch in our giddyap this spring: Arizona’s Little Hollywood: Sedona and Northern Arizona’s Forgotten Film History 1923-1973 is a finalist in the Contemporary Nonfiction category for the Western Writers of America 2011 Spur Award. Sedona Monthly’s creative director Joe McNeill wrote the hardcover, 692-page book, which was published in 2010.
Since 1953, the Spur Awards have been given annually for distinguished writing about the American West (www.westernwriters.org). The awards are among the oldest and most prestigious in American literature; past winners include Larry McMurtry for Lonesome Dove, Michael Blake for Dances With Wolves and Tony Hillerman for Skinwalkers. This is the first time a film history book has been nominated.
“To have my name mentioned along with such illustrious company is one of the greatest compliments I could ever receive,” says Joe. “But this is really Sedona’s honor. The town made the history – I was just the messenger who delivered the news.”
Arizona’s Little Hollywood includes numerous revelations about moviemaking in northern Arizona. The book tells the story behind Der Kaiser von Kalifornien, a German-language anti-American Nazi propaganda Western filmed in Sedona in 1935, as well as the true history of filmmaking in Monument Valley including the most detailed account ever published of John Ford’s Stagecoach.––Erika Ayn Finch. Originally published in the June 2010 issue of Sedona Monthly
Henry Fonda and Glenn Ford tip their hats to Hope Holiday and Sue Ane Langdon.
Despite its “naughty” (for 1965) nude scenes, the biggest taboo The Rounders broke had nothing to do with sex – the lighthearted MGM Western finally ended Hollywood’s longtime view of Sedona as the town that dare not speak its name. Here are a few tidbits taken from a chat I had with Sue Ane Langdon, the film’s still-lovely co-star, during a return visit she made to Sedona in 2004. For more, including the inside scoop on her memorable skinnydipping scene with Glenn Ford and Henry Fonda, check out The Rounders chapter in my book Arizona’s Little Hollywood––Joe McNeill
JM: First off, I want you to know that I get a big kick out of The Rounders...
SUE ANE LANGDON: Oh, thank you! I think it’s a loveable movie. It’s a great movie for horse lovers – although you could learn to hate them, too (laughing). But you can never hate [equine co-star] Ol’ Fooler! It’s a wonderful movie about people, a great study of those two guys.
It really holds up. It’s still funny.
It still plays. I went to a private showing for the Kiwanis Club, I think it was in Thousand Oaks, California. And Peter Ford, Glenn’s son was there and I didn’t realize that he and Peter Fonda (Henry’s son) were in the movie. They’re in the big barroom fight scene; they hit each other. So next time you see it, if you see a fella that looks like Glenn Ford, but younger, that’s his son. He looks just like him. And Peter Fonda you may know from his other movies.
What are your memories of Burt Kennedy, The Rounders’ director?
Oh, I loved Burt. Fortunately, I was able to spend a lot more time with him later. We would see each other throughout the years, at parties and things. We began to go every year to his birthday party. Burt did some very nice things for me and he was just a darling man. He was a dear man – almost the “king of the Westerns,” next to John Ford. He made so many Westerns. I miss him very much.
When you were in Sedona, did you get a chance to sightsee or was it just all work?
I think it was mostly just work, work, work – but where we worked was sightseeable. Where is there a place [in Sedona] that’s not sightseeable? As we drove in today, I remembered the scene where Hope Holiday and I are leaning over the car, the scene where Glenn and Henry first spot us and they skid to a halt. We’re leaning over, looking under the hood because the vehicle has stopped and I say something like “I think it’s the carburetor or the brakes,” whatever that infamous line was. But that’s no longer a two lane highway. That’s all it was when we shot there.
There’s no record of any complaints from Golden State historical societies or politicians when most of the advertising materials Paramount created for its 1947 gold rush epic California featured Sedona’s recognizable red rocks, but studio honchos must have liked the imagery; after a long absence, over the next decade, the studio would release six films shot on location in Red Rock Country, including Copper Canyon (1950) which reteamed California’s lead actor Ray Milland and director John Farrow.
The Outlaw’s Daughter is easily the most obscure Hollywood movie made in Sedona after 1950 – to this day most people have not seen it and, frankly, few moviegoers in 1954 did either. It effectively ended the short film career of its star, Kelly Ryan – mainly because there was no “Kelly Ryan.” It was a screen name assigned by the movie’s producers to Sheila Connolly, an American-born Irish model-turned-actress – remarkably, they felt “Sheila Connolly” didn’t sound Irish enough. Connolly is pictured above wearing a sexy cowgirl outfit that, apart from not being very practical for ranch work, you never see her wear in the film.
Having played host to more than 60 Hollywood productions—from the early years of cinema through the 1970s—Sedona, Arizona’s unsung role in American film is the topic of this blog. Here, once and for all Sedona gets her due as a key location in movie history, a silent but stunning backdrop to all genres of movies including silent films, B westerns, World War II propaganda, and film noir.